DETROIT — At least Chris Sale’s MRI produced a good result.
That’s the White Sox take, even though they announced they will place their two-time All-Star on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a flexor muscle strain. With Tommy John surgeries occurring almost daily through the league, the White Sox feel fortunate Sale’s MRI showed no structural damage.
They believe the left-hander is dealing with an injury similar to the one he experienced in 2012. Rather than lose Sale — who was unavailable for comment — for the next 9-12 months, the White Sox are hopeful their ace can return somewhere around the time he’s eligible to come off the DL.
[RELATED - Chris Sale headed to disabled list]
“It’s a big, big relief to Chris,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Everything he described was consistent with the pain in terms of the location and the width of the location where he felt discomfort with what he’s experienced before. At the same time, I think in large part due to how many incidents we’ve seen of ligament damage already this year, which is something that Chris referred to a couple of times when we talked today, it was very important for us to get this film.”
Sale was expected to pitch Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers but rookie Charlie Leesman will take the mound instead. Sale planned to skip his side session this week because of soreness, but hadn’t recovered enough after he made a career-high 127 pitches in Thursday’s start.
Hours after they said they’d push him back for a few days, Sale landed on the DL for the first time in his career. The White Sox have previously shut Sale down several times over his first two full seasons as a starting pitcher.
Last year, Sale didn’t pitch from May 17-June 2 because of soreness in his shoulder.
In 2012, Sale made one relief appearance from May 1-12 and then didn’t start from July 3-15, though he did pitch an inning in the All-Star Game in between. The team spent much of the latter half of 2012 monitoring the workload of Sale, who was in his first full season as a starter. Sale pitched 214 1/3 innings in 2013 and made 30 starts.
The White Sox feel like they have a good handle on how to heal Sale, who moved from the rotation to the bullpen while the team was in Detroit in May 2012.
“The preliminary read is that his ligament looks excellent,” Hahn said. “We believe we are dealing with a flexor mass strain of the muscle of his left arm. Similar to what we dealt with coincidentally in Detroit two years ago as well as a little bit last year actually. So, at this point, we figured we are much better off having him miss the start here in Detroit and miss the start against Tampa Bay and then re-evaluate. Hopefully the recovery from this goes as smoothly as the last couple of times we’ve dealt with this and he’s able to take the ball when his 15 days are up.”
Sale is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in four starts this season. He has developed into a frontline starter in less than two years and is indispensable. White Sox manager Robin Ventura shares Hahn’s confidence that Sale will rebound. He’d rather rest him now than force the issue.
“It’s something we have dealt with before and you just don’t want to take any chances,” Ventura said. “Get him some rest and get him healthy.”
Sale is the second member of the starting rotation to be placed on the DL in less than a week. Felipe Paulino was placed on the DL on Saturday and rookie Andre Rienzo will assume his spot in the rotation on Wednesday.
Veteran John Danks hopes to help offset the immediate loss. He’s also relieved to hear Sale’s injury isn’t catastrophic.
“To hear that he’s going to be OK and not miss too much time, that’s great,” Danks said. “It’s a big shoe to fill. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game and it wouldn’t do us any good to lose him. Fortunately we’re not going lose him for too much and I’m going to try to pick up the slack until then.”